(Above pictures shows Jason Kidd dropping his 10,000 dime on the Toronto Raptors on March 1, 2009 at the American Airlines Center)
I learned the definition of a basketball assist on Sunday afternoon as the Mavericks took on (and beat down) the Phoenix Suns. I watched Jason Kidd’s assist total climb throughout the first half as I was trying to get a picture of his fourteenth assist.
I wanted this picture because that would be the assist that put Kidd’s career total over Magic Johnson’s career total. It was the assist that would leave him standing alone at the third position of all-time assists in the NBA. The total of 10,142 would leave him a bounce pass away from second place Mark Jackson’s 10,334. First place is held by John Stockton who has 15,806 career assists. So logically, unless Kidd catches a severe case of Benjamin Buttons he will finish his career in the second slot of all-time.
Back to the 14th assist…bottom line: I missed it! After all that diligence, I missed the picture because it was such a nonchalant pass across the lane to a cutting Josh Howard that it didn’t look like a pass that would put anyone in scoring position?! But as Josh grabbed it, he made a step and two hard dribbles to the basket and scored on a floater.
After that I was thinking that they wouldn’t give Jason the assist, so I could have another shot at documenting history. But when I looked up at the assist board the number climbed to 14, and so it was official. Jason had his new position on the career assist board, and I had an empty camera sitting in my lap.
What “The Book” says about assists: “An assist is credited to the player tossing the last pass leading directly to a field goal, only if the player scoring the goal responds by demonstrating immediate reaction toward the basket.” Say what?! Let’s not even try to decipher that subjective sentence.
Here is the reality and the Reader’s Digest
version of what I learned after extensive research on the subject of recording assists: An assist is whatever the score keeper says is an assist. It’s as arbitrary as grading a kindergartner’s art project. Keith Grant of the Dallas Mavericks front office says, “It’s not exactly that arbitrary!” But I am going to say it anyway because I think it’s funny and close to the truth.
All the confusion stated, the fact remains that Jason Kidd has dropped more dimes in the NBA than anyone who has ever played, except two men. One of those he has in his cross hairs to surpass next season, and the other he will never catch. All that being said, Jason Kidd could easily play five more seasons and pile on a lot more assists to his career totals. As Mavericks Head Coach Rick Carlisle has stated many times, “Never underestimate greatness at any age!”
Inside Dish caught up with Jason as he was lifting weights after practice on Tuesday afternoon. He quadrupled up on his leg extensions as he sat and answered the following questions about his newly-acquired position on the NBA Career Assists Board.
When you look at all the names of the Top 25 All-Time Assist Leaders in the NBA, did you think your name would be at the top of it?
No way. I did not think I would ever get this high on the list, but it is a great honor. If you look at it there are some great names on that list. (John) Stockton, Mark Jackson, Magic Johnson, (Oscar) Robertson, Isiah Thomas, my good friend Gary Payton and look at Nash -- he is in the top 10 also. It is pretty amazing if you think about it. I mean anytime you can see so plainly that your hard work has paid off it is huge. 10,000 assists is a lot. I never thought I would get to this point.
You made it to your current spot on the list by having a huge 20-assist game against Phoenix last Sunday. What did it feel like to have that many assists in a game?
Hey, that is my type of game. Having those types of numbers and not even having to play the fourth quarter makes it even better. I’m not a young man, so it was cool to get it in that fashion.
What about your assist to Josh Howard in the Phoenix game when he made a ¾ court shot off your inbounds pass?
It was pretty amazing because all I was doing was just passing the ball in and he made this incredible shot, and I end up getting an assist for it. It was definitely the all-time longest shot made on an assist from me.
So you are 144 assists away from passing Mark Jackson. You probably won’t get it this year, but do you think you will be a Maverick when you break the record early next season?
Yes, I would definitely love to make those assists in a Dallas uniform. I want to play the rest of my career here and pass Mark Jackson for second on the list.
I see you talking to Mark Jackson a lot when they broadcast our games. Is he a good friend, and what do you talk about?
Well, he did television for the Nets so I got to know him and be good friends with him. We just joke around a lot and catch up with each other when we meet at the games. He told me at halftime of the Suns game that if this game went into overtime that I would probably pass him. Of course he was joking, but he is a funny guy and brings a lot to the game from the television side.
John Stockton is at the head of the list and is entering the basketball Hall of Fame this spring. Do you feel like you are going to be heading to the Hall of Fame when your career is done?
Well, I hope at the end of my career I can say I accomplished a lot, but is that going to get me into the Hall of Fame? I don’t know?! When you look at Stockton, Magic, and Oscar Robertson, all these guys are in the Hall of Fame and I guess I compare. Hopefully, when it’s Mark Jackson’s time to be eligible for the Hall they can elect him. He has had a heck of a career and if that is the case for him, then hopefully I can make it right after Mark.
How do you decide on how you are going to deliver the ball to your teammates?
I think that it is just a reaction to what is available or what I perceive as being available. I just react. I know that Dirk (Nowitzki) likes the bounce pass so I try to give it to him that way a lot of times. J-Ho (Josh Howard) or Jet (Jason Terry): I just try to get them the ball as quick as possible so that they can do what they do best. With Damp (Erick Dampier), I try to look for alley-oop opportunities whenever I can. It really is just a reaction to what is available.
I have seen you make some ridiculous passes that didn’t seem possible. How do you make those passes so well?
Well, number one, I am not afraid to fail. I am not afraid of the turnover. So I will push the envelope and try things that if they work it is great, and if it doesn’t, then I will take the blame for the mistake. A lot of times doing something that no one thinks is possible is what throws guys off. They don’t think you are going to throw it, and then you do and it catches everybody by surprise. That is when your teammate ends up with a dunk or a three pointer. It works.
So you are saying that you have made a lot of bad passes in your basketball career?
Oh, yes for sure. A lot of my passes didn’t work as I intended them.
Have you had a favorite target over your playing career?
Not really. I look at everyone as an equal. I just try to make the game simple and find the open guy. It makes the game fun for me when I can do that.